You don't have to die from colorectal cancer

Colorectal cancer, commonly known as colon cancer, kills 140,000 people a year, making it the second leading cause of cancer death a
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

Colorectal cancer, commonly known as colon cancer, kills 140,000 people a year, making it the second leading cause of cancer death among American men and women, combined. But, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if everyone 50 years or older were screened regularly, as many as 60 percent of deaths from colorectal cancer could be avoided.

Armed with this statistic, I have made it my personal mission to help fight colorectal cancer in our area. For instance, in Huron County, the screening rate for people age 50 and over is around 30 percent. My goal is to more than double that by the end of the year. Recently, as a way to help decrease the instance of colorectal cancer in our area, I launched the Open Access Colon CA Screening Program.

Visit BayAreaGastro.com to learn more about the "new" Open Access Colon CA Screening program. People who are 45, if at high risk, to 50 and up may now be able to have a colonoscopy for colon cancer screening without having to make an appointment with me, a board certified gastroenterologist, first.

Local primary care physicians and nurse practitioners have been extremely supportive of this new initiative and I am happy to report, that at the end of January, screenings were up 100 percent over last year at this time.

Recommendations

The American Cancer Society recommends that average-risk adults should begin colorectal cancer screening at 50 years old with one of several options, including a once-a-decade colonoscopy that not only detects cancerous growths, but can remove polyps before they become cancerous. Studies show that screening rates rise and death rates decline substantially when states require insurance coverage for these potentially lifesaving procedures.

Did you know that Medicare has a colon cancer colonoscopy screening benefit for seniors? This is a great benefit and I wish that all insurance companies provided this service in our area. Yet, many people not on Medicare are finding itdifficult to get these screenings since, unfortunately, Ohio does not have legislation that requires fee-for-service insurance providers to cover the cost of preventative colorectal cancer screenings.

For the first time, more than half of the U.S. population is covered by state laws that require insurance providers to cover the cost of colon cancer screening tests, according to a new report card issued by a coalition of 11 leading public health groups. Despite the gains, 26 states still have failing marks of "D" or "F." Ohio was one of the states to receive a failing grade.

However you can do something about it. Visit www.eifoundation.org/national/nccra/splash/. This Web site has an online form to let our representatives know that we need this legislation to take our state from its current "F" grade to an "A" grade.

Early detection saves lives

When detected early, colon cancer is among the most treatable of all cancers and has a five-year survival rate of 90 percent. Thatsurvival rate drops to 10 percent when people are diagnosed with the most advanced stage of the disease (once it has spread from the colon to other organs such as the liver and lungs). Early detection andprevention through screening is extraordinarily cost-effective.

Early detection also produces overall savings in health care expenditures by reducing treatment costs. A recent report commissioned by the American College of Gastroenterology estimated average per patient treatment costs of $30,000 when cancers are detected in the early stages, compared to $120,000 for a patient with late-stage colon cancer. While screening is cost-effective on an aggregate basis, the out-of-pocket costs can strain the finances of uninsured and underinsured individuals and discourage them from taking advantage of screening technology.

Minimize your risk

In addition to colon cancer screening, lifestyle changes can also help in the prevention of colon cancer. These include:

* Maintaining a normal weight

* No smoking

* Limiting alcohol

* Increasing exercise

* Eating a diet rich in fiber that includes fresh fruit and vegetables with restrictions on red meat.

Educating the public

It is important that our community knows the importance of early detection and, with the help of Fisher-Titus Medical Center , we have been able to get the word out. One way FTMC does this is by offering community forums on the subject.

FTMC and Bay Area Gastroenterology will sponsor a community forum in March, during National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. The Colorectal Cancer Awareness Forum is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. March 10 in the Fisher-Titus Learning Center at Norwalk High School, 350 Shady Lane Drive.For more information and toregister, call 419-660-2828

Dr. Alfred Kafity is board certified in gastroenterology. His practice, Bay Area Gastroenterology, is located on the Fisher-Titus Medical Center 's campus in Medical Park 2, Suite D. His office can be reached by calling 419-663-8061.